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BFC handed tricky draw in AFC Cup

Sunil Chhetri in action against Abahani Dhaka in an AFC Cup encounter in Bangladesh.
Sunil Chhetri in action against Abahani Dhaka in an AFC Cup encounter in Bangladesh.

Bengaluru FC (BFC) will face Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan in their 2018 AFC Cup inter-zone playoff semi-finals -- effectively the quarter-finals -- on August 22 and August 29, with the home leg taking place first. This will be the first assignment for their new coach, following Albert Roca's decision to leave after guiding the club to the knockout stages after a dramatic 4-0 win away to Dhaka Abahani of Bangladesh, even as former I-League champions Aizawl FC beat New Radiant of Maldives 2-1. This result meant BFC have made it to the knockout stages of each of their four participations in the continental competition.

BFC and Altyn Asyr were both champions in their respective groups. But the club from Turkmenistan were unbeaten in a competitive Central Asian group, claiming the scalp of 2017 runners-up Istiklol from Tajikistan 3-2 away on the last match day. Mihail Titow's goal in the seventh minute of added time was their 17th in six matches, while BFC scored 14 goals in their six matches, and lost away to New Radiant for their solitary defeat.

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BFC, who became the first Indian club to reach the AFC Cup final in 2016 before losing to Air Force Club of Iraq, were drawn against North Korean club April 25 at the same stage last year, following a format change that meant West Asian teams would only meet teams from the rest of Asia in the final. BFC registered a 3-0 win at home and then travelled to Pyongyang and held their opponents to a goalless draw. They were eventually eliminated in the inter-zone playoff final by Istiklol, who beat them 3-2 on aggregate.

If BFC beat Altyn Asyr over the two legs in their inter-zone semi-final, they will take on the winner of the other semi-final -- between April 25 and the ASEAN zonal champions (either Home United of Singapore or Ceres-Negros of the Philippines) -- first away in September and then at home in October. The winner of the West Zone final -- either one of Al-Jazeera of Jordan or reigning two-time champions Air Force Club -- will host the final on October 27.


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